My second great grandmother Rwfka was born in Poland in 1805. She married my second great grandfather whose last name was Stupaj. Her maiden name is given as Rwfka Krawczynska, Konskiewicz, Ziemkiewicz. Why would she have multiple last names?
I can think of many ways you could end up looking at records with three different maiden names.
The records could be for different women, i.e. maybe they aren't actually all for your ancestor.
The different names could be the result of errors, either in recording (i.e. the clerk wrote down the wrong name, or was told the wrong name) or in interpretation (i.e. something has been misread, by indexers or by researchers).
The family may have used more than one name. For example, if one of the names was locally very common, the community may have resorted to adding another name -- such as a mother's or wife's maiden name -- to tell the various families apart. Recording of such double surnames was often hit-or-miss, depending on what the clerk or official believed and what he was told.
One or more of the names may be a previous married name rather than a maiden name.
One of the names may be the person's mother's name. This is especially likely if the child came before the marriage, where officialdom would assign the mother's surname, but the family and community would automatically apply the mother's husband's name.
The multiple names may be the result of multiple marriages of the person's mother. If the mother was widowed with young children, remarried, and had more babies, even the children could get confused about which ones went with which father (and therefore which name).
Thank you so much for your comprehensive answer.
So, @Julia Szent-Györgyi, should the names be strung together or entered separately as Alternate names?
@dontiknowyou, how (or if) the names should be entered rather depends on which explanation turns out to be correct.
For the "disambiguating extra surname" situation, I can see arguments for both "put them both in the Vitals name" and for "put them all as alternate names". The advantage of the former is simplicity; FS's matching algorithms generally work well with "one or both" situations. The disadvantage is needing to choose an ordering for the names. (Randomly? Alphabetically?) The advantage to alternate names is not needing to pick one to go first; the disadvantage is, if they're all alternates, then what do you put under Vitals?
Similar ruminations apply to many of the other possible explanations, too. In the end, I wouldn't worry about it overmuch: choose a name for the Vitals box by whatever criterion works for you, put any others as alternates, write an explanation for your choices on the Collaborate tab, and move on. None of it is set in stone, so if new evidence or another researcher changes your mind, your conclusions can be changed to match.